Iva Wich Performs in Strafford, With Nashville in Her Sights

  • Singer-songwriter Iva Wich plays music from her first recording, Avalanche, at the Strafford Townhouse on Saturday night. Courtesy photograph

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/30/2018 9:59:57 PM
Modified: 5/30/2018 10:00:06 PM

As much as she enjoyed singing the lead in the Hanover High Footlighters’ recent production of Hello, Dolly!, Iva Wich bade farewell to the title character with not a little relief.

Musical theater, scripted as it is, limits a performer’s creativity, and the Strafford native’s desired future, as a country singer-songwriter, is open-ended. She’s ready to get on with it.

“In musicals, you learn the notes that someone writes for you,” Wich, 18, said during an interview at the high school last week. “You don’t improvise much, if at all. You do pretty much exactly what you’re supposed to do. There’s a lot less freedom. You’re becoming what someone else needs you to be, for the show’s sake.

“With your own music, you can interpret the way you want. It’s always comfortable.”

On Saturday night at the Strafford Townhouse, Wich (her name is pronounced Eye-va Wick) will sing and play the nine songs from her debut album, Avalanche, to benefit the renovation of the spire of the historic structure. She describes the concert as one more chance to thank her hometown before she starts studying for a music business degree at Nashville’s Belmont University and playing gigs on the side.

Wich and her parents, Laura Corcoran and Craig Wich, are glad that she stayed close to home for her high school years, after considering a transfer to the private A.W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, Fla. Since she graduated from Strafford’s Newton School, she’s performed in various ensembles at Hanover High, appeared in musicals in area theaters and played restaurant gigs with Upper Valley musicians while fine-tuning Avalanche.

“I really think it’s good to be well-rounded, and you don’t know exactly what you want to do at that age,” Corcoran said this week. “I thought it was important for her to try different things before she chose a path.”

For a while, Wich admits, she was trying to do too much — ice hockey and soccer on top of music and theater, including a stint, at age 14, as Dorothy in a Pentangle Arts production of The Wizard of Oz in Woodstock’s Town Hall Theatre.

“I really loved sports, but I had to quit something,” she said. “I had to pick.”

Even with her athletic career in the rear-view mirror, Wich was filling her waking hours and then some.

“I wrote most of the songs for Avalanche when I was 14 and 15,” Wich recalled. “I started recording when I was 16.”

The recordings, often made in 12-hour sessions with professional musicians, took place during the winter of 2016-2017 in Florida. Wich shuttled back and forth during that period from rehearsals for her appearance in a Pentangle production of Cats — for which she had taken dancing lessons at the Lebanon Ballet School.

“It was hard,” Wich admits. “My voice was struggling, because it’s two very different kinds of singing.”

Corcoran, who majored in vocal performance at Boston University and still sings occasionally in benefit shows around the Upper Valley, closely monitored her daughter’s exercise of her instrument and her time at home. And her father, who teaches voice and runs a production company in Florida, stayed alert before and after her recording sessions.

“I’ll be home and guzzling coffee out of the coffeepot, and my mother says, ‘Save your voice!’ ” Wich said. “Both of my parents gave me the etiquette I needed.”

Among the grateful beneficiaries of that supervision is Jennifer Chambers, choral director and music teacher at Hanover High, who first saw Wich’s potential during an audition for the folk chorus.

“It’s the sleep. It’s the nutrition. How do we take care of our body?” Chambers said this week. “She’s been very fortunate to have that discipline. Iva has such a strong instrument. She did the Rejoice solo in a concert of Handel’s Messiah, and she cut over the orchestra. Her training is such that her voice can carry over the instruments in whatever she’s doing.”

Once she earned her driver’s license, Wich started shuttling her sound system and her guitar around the Upper Valley to restaurant gigs with area musicians, particularly saxophonist Mike Parker, of Royalton.

“She has really good stage presence, and relates to the audience fluently,” Parker said this week. “She’s not shy with a microphone, and will often give the backstory behind her original songs, which the audience really enjoys. We play five or six of her originals in a three-hour gig which is usually about 30 songs total, and the crowd always loves her originals.”

Wich finds that atmosphere more comfortable than the clamor and striving of reality-show contests such as The Voice. During one recent shot at American Idol, she made it about two notes into the song she’s chosen when “they were, like, ‘Thank you. Next.’

“I’m trying to do this in a thoroughly professional way, but they want either a soap-opera backstory or some outrageous, eccentric style on stage,” she continued. “I used to be competitive, but eventually I learned that you can’t view it as if you’re surrounded by competitors. You have to view it as, you’re surrounded by people who help you grow.”

In her younger days, Wich found inspiration in the works of pop-country singers such as Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood. In more recent years, she’s developed a taste for the likes of Dolly Parton and a musician who died when Wich was 3 years old.

“One of the people I look up to the most is Johnny Cash,” she said. “I appreciate his music and stage presence and his sense of humor. It’s storytelling.

“You’re showing someone else a little piece of you, and hoping they can connect with it.”

While pursuing those connections — she’ll be playing gigs in the area this summer — she’s realistic about the odds of hitting it big.

“I want to be secure as a musician. I want to have a plan,” Wich said. “If the plan doesn’t happen I still have a business degree. However things turn out, you have to be there and put in the work.

“If the plan doesn’t happen, at least I’ll be in the right place.”

Iva Wich performs at the Strafford Townhouse on Saturday night at 7, as a benefit for renovations to the spire of the historic building. Admission is $15. Food and beer will be sold on the town common starting at 5:30, with beer sales to benefit the steeple restoration.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com or 603-727-3304.

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